Weighted blankets come in various sizes and contain a filling that makes them several pounds heavier than a typical blanket. They can help to soothe people who have trouble sleeping, including those with special needs. The weight feels like a firm hug, which can be comforting. Occupational therapists often recommend them for people with a sensory-processing disorder, and those with insomnia use them too. These blankets can be quite expensive, but you can make your own with snuggly fabric and a weighted filler. While the sewing itself is only simple straight lines and should only take you a few hours to complete, this project is best suited for intermediate sewers, as weighting the blanket requires special attention.
This method for making a DIY weighted blanket uses small stuffing beads that aren't recommended for children ages 3 and under. Even if you're making this for an adult, check the seams regularly to avoid any beads escaping.
Equipment / Tools
- Kitchen scale
- Tailor's chalk or your favorite marking tool
- Sewing machine
- Durable fabric for the front and back
- Plastic filler beads (so the blanket is washable)
- Quality thread
Determine Your Blanket Size and Weight
A weighted blanket doesn't have to be as large as a quilt or comforter. It just needs to cover the person who will use it. Into the fabric you’ll sew squares that will hold the weighted filler. These can be anywhere from 3 to 5 square inches. That means the overall fabric measurements should be a multiple of your square size plus 4 inches for the edges. For example, the blanket in the photos has squares that are 3 square inches. It is 37 inches wide (3x11+4=37) and 61 inches high (3x19+4=57).
In general, weighted blankets should be about 10% of a person's body weight. If you're making a weighted blanket for specific needs, an occupational therapist can help you determine the best weight. Once you know what the total weight needs to be, convert it to ounces and subtract the weight of the fabric. Divide the result by the number of squares in the blanket. This is how much weight you need in each square. The blanket in the photos has 209 squares with about 1 ounce of plastic filler beads in each square.
Sew the Front and Back Together
Mark 2 inches in from each edge of the fabric. Then, mark a grid of squares based on the square size you chose. (In the example blanket, the checked fabric served as the markings.)
Sew the front and back pieces with the right sides (the sides that will ultimately face out) together and a 3/8-inch seam allowance. Sew the two long sides and one short side. Leave the top open.
Then, turn the blanket right side out and open the seams. Starting and ending a short distance from the open side, topstitch 1/4 inch from the edge. Next, starting 2 inches from the open side, sew along the marked lines that were 2 inches in from the fabric edge. Sew the two long sides and the bottom. Backstitch at the beginning and end. This inner topstitching will contain the grid of weighted squares.
Sew Vertical Channels in the Blanket
Next, sew all the vertical channels on the marked lines. Starting at the closed bottom edge, begin your stitching just over the line of stitching that's almost 2 inches from the inner topstitching. End the stitching just over the top 2-inch marking, and be sure to backstitch at the beginning and end.
When sewing these lines, it's helpful to start at the center and then sew the next lines near the center of those sections and so on. Working this way helps to prevent the sewing from getting off track and the fabric from bunching.
Fill a Vertical Channel With Weighted Stuffing Beads
Place a measured scoop of filler beads in a vertical channel. Remember that the scoop should hold the correct weight based on the number of squares that will be in that channel.
Shake the beads, so there is a level amount throughout the channel. Depending on the fabric, some beads might stick in the channels (flannel tends to stick a lot), but don't worry about that too much.
Sew Horizontally Across the Filled Channel
Use pins to form a line to keep the filler beads in place and away from the marked horizontal line for your squares. You don't want to accidentally sew over one of the beads, as it might break your needle.
Sew the marked horizontal line. Begin just over the line of stitching that's almost 2 inches from the inner topstitching. End your stitching just over the inner topstitching on the other side, and be sure to backstitch at the beginning and end.
As you sew support the weight of the blanket, so it doesn't pull your stitches. Feel along the marked line as you go, and push any stray beads out of the way. If you meet any resistance when sewing, chances are a bead got in the way.
Then, repeat the process of adding filler to a vertical channel and sewing horizontally to close off the row of filled squares until all of the lines are stitched.
Topstitch the Open End of the Blanket
When you reach the top of the blanket, sew the last row of squares closed. This stitching should meet up with the line of inner topstitching, overlapping a tiny bit.
Fold the edges of the open side in about 1/2 inch. Starting and ending where the topstitching ended on the sides, topstitch 1/4 inch from the edge.
Normally all topstitching would happen at the end of a project. But because this project gets quite heavy, it's much easier to do most of the topstitching before adding the filler and then finish off the top at the end.
Weighted Blanket Tips
- Instead of marking squares on a large piece of fabric for the blanket front, you can sew squares to make a patchwork weighted blanket. Then, sew the channels and rows along the seams.
- Sew with a small stitch length to keep the filler beads in place.
- Use a strong, thick needle, such as one designed for sewing denim, to reduce the chance of your needle breaking.
- Avoid pulling or pushing the blanket while sewing the rows. Support the weight, and let the sewing machine's feed dogs do their job of pulling the fabric through.
- If possible, push your sewing machine in from the edge of your sewing table. Having extra table space helps to support the weight of the blanket as you sew.
- Above all, sew safely. Pay attention to the location of the pins, watch out for breaking needles, and keep your fingers out of the way.